Mead, Creffield, Richmond and I showed at the Parsons Gallery in December 1951. A young Swedish painter called Torsten Renquist came to view this exhibition and he invited the four of us to exhibit at the Gummesons Gallery in Stockholm the following Spring. The exhibition was given the title 'Four Englishmen' and it was open to the public for one month, from April until May, in 1952.
The exhibition was reported in the English press in a way which suggested that we were making a great deal of money. In fact we made more money by exhibiting the car which we arrived in than by exhibiting our paintings. We had broken down on the journey and when we arrived, with the car running on only three cylinders and covered in mud, we went to a garage to have it repaired. The car was a 1934 Austin and it struck the garage owner as being so unusual that he put it in his showroom window for two weeks with spotlights on it. This caused such a spectacle that the police had to move on the crowds who came to look at it. The garage owner paid us 150 Swedish Crowns a day for using the vehicle to advertise his business and this was a sum of money which was worth having in those days. Here is an article which was written for the Daily Express just after the exhibition had closed (Tuesday, 6th May, 1952).
'Three artists in old taxi make a city sit up'
Three hard-up London artists have brought 85 of their paintings to Stockholm in a 1934 taxi which they paid for by going hop-picking. And now the Swedish critics can hardly find enough adjectives to praise their work.
The artists - 27-year-old Dorothy Mead; Dennis Creffield; and Cliff Holden, 33 - call themselves the remnants of the Borough school of painting, which used to flourish at the Elephant and Castle. In Britain they "exhibited" pictures on Thames lighters, on the Embankment, and on South London rooftops.
Now fashionable crowds go to see their work in a de luxe private gallery in Stockholm's Park-lane. And their pictures are fetching £10 to £90 each.
Which is quite a change from the days when Dorothy worked as an usherette, Dennis Creffield as a railway porter, and Cliff Holden as boxer, fisherman, farmhand and navvy.
The British Ambassador, Mr. Roger Stevens, has visited their exhibition in Stockholm. And the Swedish Press says things like this:- "These painters represent a phalanx of the very young." ... "their expressionism rests on classical as well as volcanic bases." ... And, more simply: "We should be thankful they have come here."
Holden said today: "We are striving after new art forms. Dozens of sketches often go into one picture. It's hard work. That's why we don't teach or take office work to make ends meet, like most needy artists. We need all our creative and spiritual resources for painting. But we are sometimes driven to manual labour. It's less tiring than brain work. All we want now is someone to give us a name, like Cubists or Existentialists. We think we have got something original." And the Swedes think so too.
© Cliff Holden
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